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The Dingers of Ignorance Last
2003-04-23 13:35
by Mike Carminati

The Dingers of Ignorance

Last night I watched Mike Piazza became only the fourth catcher to hit 350 home runs with a ninth-inning no-question shot into the left field bleachers at Shea. The homer raised the dead of the Mets lineup (or was it the cheesy NY apple that sprang up as a result of the HR). The Mets started the ninth down 6-1 and eventually brought the tying run to the plate in the person of Tsuyoshi Shinjo. But he lined out with the bases loaded to end it (interestingly, Billy Wagner was not awarded a save in the effort; EDIT: Actually Wagner didn't qualify since his team led by more than 3 runs when he entered, and getting the tie run to the plate was largely his doing: Burnitz HBP and a Bell walk. Wagner would need to face the tying run in his first two batters, so my comment was erroneous).

The three other catchers are Johnny Bench (389), Carlton Fisk (376), and "Yo? No, Yogi" Berra (358). I confirmed this at a great new (at least to me) site called the Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers, which I have added under my Reference Links.

But it occurred to me that Bench and Berra played other positions towards the end of their careers (third base and left field respectively), and even Fisk would DH from time to time. Could Piazza have more home runs as a catcher than any of these men?

So I checked the great but out-of-date SABR's Home Run Encyclopedia since they list career home run leaders by position. I found that Fisk had the most as a catcher with 351.

Could Piazza be within one of the all-time record? Well, the HR Encylclopedia could not help since it was published in 1996 and, therefore, was not helpful for investigating Piazza. All I could dig up online regarding position batting stats for Piazza was that since 1999 and he had 8 non-catching home runs (6 as a DH and 2 as a pinch-hitter). I will do a bit more research to find the real total, but given that the baseball world is so record-crazed, I am surprised I didn't hear any mention of the feat (i.e., 350 homers). The ESPN recap of the game doesn't even mention it. I guess it's because the Mets don't play in a big media town. Yeah, and to quote Spinal Tap, "Boston's not a big college town."

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